Saturday, November 3, 2012 | Categories: Michael's Essays |
(Photo pin / Scott Ableman)
The fearful storm that devastated the Atlantic Coast hit here in Washington around noon on Monday and pounded it for the next 40 hours. The city shut down. The federal government closed. Tourists fled the fabled historical sites - the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol. Shops and restaurants downtown emptied.
The storm was heavy with gale force winds, driving rain and as it turned out, political portent.
When the sun finally broke through mid-morning on Thursday, it shone, in a perfect execution of pathetic fallacy, on Barack Obama and for a moment turned around his political fortunes.
His supporters said he looked and acted presidential.
His enemies sneered at the "Comforter in Chief" and accused him of exploiting tragedy.
Whatever else it did, the storm certainly hijacked the momentum of his challenger Mitt Romney and the Republicans.
Because the 2012 presidential election is more like a referendum on Barack Obama's first four years than a careful examination of different policies, the storm and its impact on people and politics is important, but how it will affect Tuesday's election is anybody's guess.
Being in Washington is like living inside Stephen King's dome. Everything is self-referential and self-contained; the real world outside is miles and ages away.
When I lived here in the late Sixties, Washington was a sleepy little southern city. The best thing about it was the eastern shuttle to New York.
Now of course, Washington sees itself as the slick fulcrum of political life in the United States.
The current inside the Beltway joke goes like this: The 2012 Presidential election is the most important election since 2008.
Meaning, for the cynics, that nothing much will change after Tuesday. The economy will remain sluggish, the jobless rate will stick at around eight per cent, the country will still be divided and the ideological toxicity in this town will be as corrosive as ever.
But to partisans, Tuesday means nothing less than the future of the country.
If Romney wins, say the Democrats, the welfare of Americans will be handed over to the deregulated predations of vulture capitalists from the Big Banks and Big Corporations.
If Obama wins, say the Republicans,
individual freedoms will disappear as the second-term president begins
to impose European-style socialism.
Big ticket politics in this city is governed by money and poll results.
Both campaigns are spending money like they can print it and both have their own pollsters offering aid and comfort.
Nationally, Obama and Romney seem almost tied. But in the major so-called battleground states, the president seems to have a slight edge.On this last weekend before the vote on Tuesday the focus is on Ohio. It's worth repeating that no Republican has won the presidency without Ohio and its 18 Electoral College votes.